Keith Jarrett, 'Creation' and 'Barber/Bartok/Jarrett,' ECM Records (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt | Jul 28, 2015 03:23 PM EDT
Rewards galore for repeat listens. (Photo : Henry Leutwyler)

For the first time in 19 years, ECM has released 2 Keith Jarrett CDs, a jazz project and a classical album. Creation melds highlights of six solo piano performances into one seamless whole. Barber/Bartok/Jarrett contains two concertos plus a quick goodbye.

In 1996, ECM released pianist Keith Jarrett's Preludes and Fugues at the same time as his Vienna Concert. Now, nearly two decades later, we have another classical/jazz double dip. Jarrett is 70 and he's been on 70 ECM albums over 44 years. His unaccompanied Koln Concert sent shock waves through the 1975 jazz world. Creation is solo too but in a completely different context than anything he's ever done before. Here, he's personally mixed and matched solo pieces from six 2014 concerts in Tokyo, Toronto, Paris and Rome. The nine tracks form a suite with its own inner logic from an intuitive reconstruction of ideas. There's a momentum at work that transcends even the concept of jazz as these improvisatory moments coalesce to create a stunning classical/jazz hybrid that is, most assuredly, not ambient. It's striking, in fact, in its percussive zeal. There's anger, sadness, melancholy, regret, and, of course, "Jarrett's uncanny ability to construct compelling music in real time," according to the extensive liner notes. Jarrett is that all-too-rare pianist who can tap into human emotion with a flurry of cascading notes. You feel it before you can intellectualize it. Repeated listening bears new fruit every time.

Then there's the note-for-note replication of previously written material by American composer Samuel Barber [1910-1981] and Hungarian composer/pianist Bela Bartok [1881-1945]. Barber's "Piano Concerto Opus 38" from the '60s provides ample room to move. Bartok's "Piano Concerto No. 3" contains Euro folk strains. The New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra provides the sweepingly gorgeous backdrop. Written in the final four days of Bartok's life as a gift to his wife, it's his most Bach-like composition. Jarrett, who has, in his illustrious past, performed Bach, Mozart, Handel and Shostakovich, makes this concerto seem spontaneous. The disc ends with a little improvised solo piece, "Tokyo Encore." Recorded in 1984 and 1985, it is just now being released as part of the "ECM New Series" of unearthed treasures.

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